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THE ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEM
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
APRIL 15, 1979
COMMITTEE ON HOUSE ADMINISTRATION
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1979
COMMITTEE OX HOUSE ADMINISTRATION
Ninety- Sixth Congress
FRANK THOMPSON, JK., New Jersey, Chairman
WILLIAM L. DICKINSON, Alabama
SAMUEL L. DEVINE, Ohio
JAMES C. CLEVELAND, New Hampshire
BILL FRENZEL, Minnesota
DAVE STOCKMAN, Michigan
ROBERT E. BADHAM, CaUfornia
NEWT GINGRICH, Georgia
JERRY LEWIS, California
CARROLL A. CAMPBELL, Jr., South
LUCIEN N. NEDZI, Michigan
JOHN BRADEMAS, Indiana
AUGUSTUS F. HAWKINS, California
FRANK ANNUNZIO, Illinois
JOSEPH M. GAYDOS, Pennsylvania
ED JONES, Tennessee
ROBERT H. MOLLOHAN, West Virginia
LIONEL VAN DEERLIN, California
JOSEPH G. MINISH, New Jersey
MENDEL J. DAVIS, South Carolina
CHARLES ROSE, North Carolina
JOHN L. BURTON, California
LEON E. PANETTA, California (on leave)
PETER A. PEYSER, New York
WILLIAM R. RATCHFORD, Connecticut
VIC FAZIO, California
William G. Phillips, Staff Director
Robert E. Moss, General Counsel
Robert S. McGuire, Auditor
Policy Group on Information and Computers
CHARLES ROSE, North Carolina, Chairman
LIONEL VAN DEERLIN, California DAVE STOCKMAN, Michigan
JOHN BURTON. California
JERRY LEWIS, California
House Information Systems Staff
Boyd Alexander, Director
The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-510) in Sec-
tion 121 provides that "the names of Members voting or present may
be recorded through the use of appropriate electronic equipment."
This provision, introduced as an amendment to the Act, culminated
a long history of legislative proposals to bring automated voting pro-
cedures to the United States House of Representatives. The concept
of automated voting was first introduced to the House through a reso-
lution in 1914 in an unsuccessful attempt to reduce the time required
by the House voting process. This need increased markedly in recent
years, as illustrated by the 1st Session of the 92nd Congress, in which
recorded votes and quorum calls consumed more than a month of
The electronic voting system was developed through the efforts of
the Committee on House Administration as part of a broad program
of information systems support to the House. In conjunction with the
development of this system, the House in October, 1972 passed H.
Res. 1123 amending the Rules of the House to provide for use of the
electronic voting system. The system was used for the first time on
January 23, 1973, for a quorum call. During the remainder of the 93rd
Congress it was used for 1,453 rollcalls, representing a savings of ap-
proximately 500 hours of legislative time that would otherwise have
been needed to answer rollcalls under the manual method. Responsi-
bility for the operation, maintenance, and improvement of the elec-
tronic voting system rests with the House Information Systems
(H.I.S.) staff of the Committee on House Administration.
The purpose of this committee print is to provide users of the
electronic voting system with a basic understanding of the system
and its use.
2. Design Concept
The design of the electronic voting system is based primarily on
the requirement that the time to record a vote or a quorum call be
reduced significantly. The lengthy roll call of Members' names is
replaced by a definite voting period, during which Members may vote
at their convenience.
Several additional enhancements to the voting process were em-
braced in the original design; others were added as a result of new
requirements arising during the 93rd, 94th, and the 9_otli Congresses
(see Appendix). Thus, in-progress information relatedi to a vote or
quorum call, such as the individual votes of the Members, the running
totals of Yea, Nay, and Present responses, the time remaining during
the voting period, and identification of the vote or quorum under
consideration can be displayed in the Chamber. Subsequently, re-
quirements have broadened to include the capability of retrieving
selected in-progress voting information, such as listings of the Members
organized by vote preference, by party, or by state.
The decision to utilize modern computer technology in the voting
system was influenced by a number of technical considerations as well
as procedural ones. For example, the fact that the Members do not
have assigned seats in the Chamber presented a technical problem in
recording and tabulating Members' votes. The need for in-progress
vote information retrieval also suggested the application of computer
techniques. Perhaps the most significant consideration was the fact
that the operational characteristics of a computer-oriented system
could be altered with minimal effort and cost. For example, changes in
the Rules of the House affecting voting procedure, authorized through
H. Res. 998, were incorporated simply by restructuring, where nec-
essary, programming of the system. The addition of the state and party
report and the ability to retrieve voting information by state and party
also illustrates the flexibility afforded by the computer system.\ The
Appendix includes a description of all major changes to the system in-
corporated by the H.I.S. staff' after implementation of the original
The use of a computer system to record votes was intended also to
assist various clerical activities associated with the voting process.
Thus, when a vote is declared final, printed copies of the complete vote
results can be produced and distributed to the legislative leaders, the
Government Printing Office (for inclusion in the Congressional Rec-
ord), and the press. In addition, the system off'ers an efficient and auto-
matic method for compiling data for the Members' vote history system,
which heretofore required manual data entry prior to processing by
the House computer facility.
3. System Components and Their Operation
Those components of the system that interact with the Members
during the vote process are described in this section. Figure 1 indi-
cates the location of the Chamber components when the electronic
voting system is activated, while Figure 2 shows that the Chamber
appears unchanged when the system is not in use.
Voting Stations. — Forty-four voting stations are attached to the
backs of chairs located throughout the House Chamber, as shown in
Figure 3. The stations are equipped with three pushbutton indicators
to handle vote options; the Yea, Nay, and Present pushbuttons show
respectively green, red, and amber colors when used. A fourth indi-
cator is illuminated by a blue light whenever the voting station is
OPEN and ready for use during a vote period. The voting station
details are shown in Figure 4. The use of these stations is described in
Display Panels. — The roster of Members' names appears on the main
display that occupies the four central panels on the south wall of the
Chamber, above the Speaker's desk. Adjacent to the left of each name
are three lights — green, red, and amber — one of which is illuminated
when the system records the Member's vote. Figure 5 shows the ar-
rangement of Members' names on one of the four panels. The Mem-
bers' names and vote preference are illuminated from within the panels,
which are faced with a silk screened plexiglass that matches the cloth
tapestries covering the other panels about the Chamber. The names and
vote preferences may be seen only when the main display is activated
during a vote or quorum call.
Duphcate summary display panels are mounted on the balcony
ledges on the east and west sides of the Chamber, as indicated in
Figure 6. During a voting period each of these summary displays
identifies the issue under consideration, shows the running totals of
the Yea, Nay, and Present votes, and gives the time remaining in the
voting period. This summary information is illuminated through the
silk screened plexiglass panels that blend into the mahogany balcony
surface when these displays are not in use.
The Chamber Consoles. — There are five video display consoles in the
Chamber. One is located at the tally clerk's desk in the well, two at
the majority and minority leader's tables, and two at the rear of the
Chamber near the cloakrooms. Figure 7 shows the placement of the
console at the majority table. The console keyboard is shown in
Figure 8, along with typical console display of vote information.
The majority and minority consoles provide the same vote infor-
mation as that shown on the main and summary displays at any time
during the vote period. The main function of these consoles is to pro-
vide in-progress vote information, such as an alphabetical list of
Members or Members grouped by party, state, or vote preference.
Vote information requests are made through simple keyboard com-
mands. The majority and the minority consoles have identical capa-
bilities, but are operationally independent of one another. In addition,
the consoles at both the majority and minority tables may be used
by the leaders to establish private interactive vote information queries
unavailable on any other console. The capability to request specific
voting data is highly flexible and selective. For example. Figure 8
shows a video display of Members not voting, beginning alphabetically
During the second session of the 94th Congress the information
retrieval capability was significantly expanded. Detailed information
on past rollcalls can now be accessed interactively at any of the five
The console located in the well, called the control console, is used
by the tally clerk for direct system control during a voting period.
Primary functions of the control console include the opening and
closing of a voting period, the identification of the legislative issue
under consideration, and the recording of votes by Members who do
not bring their voting cards with them to the Chamber or who prefer
to vote in the well. In addition, the system is used to perform a number
of secondary duties, such as a system checkout, notification of the use
of invalid voting cards, and the recording of pairs.
A printer and video console are also located in the tally clerk's oflBce
near the Chamber. These devices are used for the production of a
number of printed vote reports, which are distributed to the Speaker
and other leadership offices, the tally clerks, the Government Print-
ing Office, and the press. These include a report of the Members'
votes in roster order, a report used by the tally clerks to facilitate the
verification of votes entered at the well, a report of the complete vote
results in Congressional Record format, a report on Members' votes
sorted by state and party, and a summary report by each day's voting
The Computer System. — The nucleus of the electronic voting system
consists of two Control Data Corporation Model 1700 computers lo-
cated in the Rayburn House Office Building and connected via cables
to the equipment in the House Chamber. Two computers are incorpo-
rated in the system to provide high reliability. One computer, called
the master, controls the system during a voting period. The other
computer, called the monitor, constantly checks the master and as-
sumes the master role if a system malfunction is detected. The monitor
computer also provides vote information on previous rollcalls.
The master computer accepts votes from the voting stations and
commands from the consoles. Voting information is processed, stored,
and retrieved according to programmed instructions. The computer
then directs information to the proper output device: voting station,
printer, consoles, or displays.
4. Use of the Electronic Voting System
The final form of the electronic voting procedure is defined by the
adopted Rules of the House and regulations approved by the Speaker.
Subject to final action by the House on its rules and direction from
the Speaker, it is anticipated that the electronic voting system
will continue to be used for quorum calls and all recorded votes, while
other methods of voting — voice votes, division votes, and teller votes —
will continue to be nonautomated. The fundamental objective of the
system, that the time required to conduct a recorded vote be reduced,
was approved by the House with the passage of H. Res. 1123 in Octo-
ber, 1972. This resolution amended the Rules of the House to provide
for the use of electronic voting for all recorded votes and quorum calls,
except when the Speaker (or the Chairman of the Committee of the
Whole House on the State of the Union, as the case may be) deems its
use inadvisable. The minimum voting period was set at 15 minutes
through this resolution. Use of the system has since been further
refined through precedents established during the 93rd Congress and
by rules passed by the House. For example, the passage of H. Res. 998
in April, 1973 established the notice quorum call for use by the Com-
mittee of the Whole and the deferred vote for use on suspension days.
The rule also reduced to five minutes the time for subsequent votes
taken after the first deferred vote is completed.
In order to explain the capabilities of the system, this section de-
scribes how, subject to the ruling of the Speaker, the various compo-
nents and their features may be used to conduct a recorded vote in the
House. A similar procedure is used for quorum calls and for recorded
votes in the Committee of the Whole.
To initiate a recorded vote, the Speaker directs the tally clerk at
the control console to activate the system by announcing that the
vote will be taken by electronic device. Using the control console
keyboard, the tally clerk enters the type of vote, identifies the issue
to be voted upon, and directs the system to open the voting stations
and activate the displays. This being accomplished, the system indi-
cates that votes will be accepted from the voting stations by illuminat-
ing the blue Open light on each vote station. As votes are cast, the
system will display the votes on the main display panels and, on
request, at the Chamber consoles. In addition a tally of Yea, Nay,
and Present votes will be shown on the summary display panels along
with the minimum time remaining in the voting period.
When a Member enters the chamber to cast a vote, the identi-
fication number of the issue under consideration along with the current
in-progress vote totals can be viewed on the summary displays. The
main display provides current information on the individual votes of
the entire Membership.
A Member votes by inserting his or her voting card into the slot on
any one of the stations with its blue light illuminated. Each voting
card, which also serves as the Member's official identification, is en-
coded with a pattern of holes so that the system can uniquely identify
the Member. The system extinp^uishes the blue Open Hp^ht for a fraction
of a second after the voting card is inserted while the card is being
identified; the blue Open light then goes on to indicate that the voting
station is ready to accept the Member's vote. While the card is still in
the voting station the Member records the vote by depressing the Fea,
Nay, or Pres pushbutton, which will then be illuminated to indicate
that the vote has been recorded. The appropriate light next to the
Member's name in the main display panel is also illuminated.
After removing the voting card from the voting station, the Member
may verify that the vote has been properly recorded by reinserting the
card, preferably in a different Open vote station. The button corres-
ponding to the last vote preference will be illuminated to indicate that
the vote has been recorded by the computer system. At this point,
the Member may change the vote (if more than five minutes remain
or on five minute deferred votes) by simply depressing one of the
other pushbuttons. If the vote is changed, it should be re-verified.
In the event that the Member does not have the voting card, the
vote may be recorded using the control console in the well. The Member
will be required to deposit a ballot indicating a vote preference with
the tally clerk, who then records the Member's vote electronically
using the control console. Also, changes made with less than five
minutes remaining must be made in the well.
The floor leaders may request the system to display selected vote
information on their Chamber consoles. In addition to a display
showing current vote totals by party and vote preference, displays
showing the Members' individual votes alphabetically by party,
state, or vote preference may be requested. For example, the names of
the Democrats who have voted Yea, or the Republicans who have
voted Nay, can be easily displayed using the console keyboard. The
same information listed alphabetically by state can also be selected.
The majority and minority consoles have identical capabilities, but
each operates independently of the other. They do not have the
capability of recording votes; they are used only for information
As soon as the time allotted for the voting period has expired, a sig-
nal appears at the control console. At this point the time on the
summary display panel will show "00:00", with the voting stations
remaining open. The Speaker formally ends the voting period by
instructing the tally clerk at the control console to terminate the vote,
thus closing the voting stations and filing the vote results in the com-
When the vote is declared final by the Speaker, the word FINAL
will appear on the summary displays together with the final results,
and the complete vote report can then be printed. Copies of this report
are printed on the tally clerk's printer for distribution to the Speaker,
other leadership, and the press. Pairing information can be entered
into the system through the control console at any time after the vote
At the end of a legislative day during which the electronic voting
system has been used, the record of voting activity stored in tho com-
puter system will be transferred to permanent storage. This informa-
tion will be available to the Members through the vote history system,
another computer system operated by H.I.S.
43-760 O - 79 - 2
TYPICAL CONSOLE DISPLAY OF VOTE INFORMATION
HISTORY OF THE PROJECT
During the 91st Congress the Committee on House Administration,
in conjunction with the Clerk of the House undertook a preHminary
study of an automated voting system for the House. In December 1970,
a short time after the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 became
law, the Clerk contracted with Informatics, Inc., for the design of a
computer-assisted voting system and for technical coordination of the
project to implement their design. On the recommendation of the
House Information Systems (H.I.S.) staff, the work of Informatics
was terminated in September 1971, leaving as a product a preliminary
design concept. Following revision and finalization of the design con-
cept by H.I.S., a prime contract to "develop a fully operational elec-
tronic voting system" was let by the Committee on House Administra-
tion to Control Data Corporation. A total of 16 companies were con-
sidered for various aspects of this work, and five submitted proposals
for the prime contract.
The terms of this contract called for Control Data Corporation to
provide at a cost of $950,000 hardware components, detailed system
design, computer programming, technical coordination, and opera-
tional training. Several features were added to the system by the Com-
mittee during the course of the project, increasing the cost by $68,147.
Control Data's work began in November, 1971, and the system was
ready for use with the beginning of the 93rd Congress. Operational
support of the system has since been provided by H.I.S. , which has
been responsible for monitoring all aspects of the project for the Com-
mittee on House Administration and for determining the system's
technical acceptability. The Clerk of the House has responsibility for
actual daily operation of the system.
In fulfilling this responsibility, H.I.S. has identified two major on-
going work efforts : operational maintenance of the system and imple-
mentation of changes to the system.
Operational maintenance activities include :
(1) Provision of total production processing and quality control
support to the Members, the Speaker, other leadership, the Parlia-
mentarian, and the tally clerk throughout the session.
(2) Training and assistance to all users of the system.
(3) Continued investigation of actual and potential software prob-
lems, with the goal of achieving a problem free software system;
monitoring of contracted hardware maintenance and the development
of preventive maintenance procedures to reduce hardware mal-
(4) Collection of data and statistics relating to system performance
and use; analysis of performance data; recommendation of changes
that will increase system reliability, performance, and accuracy.
Change implementation activities arise as a consequence of the need
to improve production support, quaUty control, and user support, and
to comply with changes brought about by new rules of the House and
by requests for new system features.
The eleven major changes completed during the 93rd and 94th
Congresses are :
(1) Provision for vacating quorum calls.
(2) Provision for deferred voting.
(3 Summarization of the Members' votes by party and state, both
by printed reports at the end of a voting period and by in-progress
use of the Chamber consoles.
(4) Provision for voting Present and being paired on the recorded
(5) Provision for notice quorums, with capability of converting
these to regular quorums when desired.
(6) Provision for entering miscellaneous resolutions for motions not
covered by a bill number.
(7) Provision for mechanized analysis of the engineering file to assist
in pinpointing potential hardware problems.
(8) Provisions for the Leadership to interactively specify and re-
trieve vote information by whatever criteria they choose. Up to 186
unique options are available to Leaders of both parties for their pri-
(9) Provisions for interactive viewing of all votes taken during a
(10) Provisions for restricting unlimited changes of votes at the
vote stations, during specified times on certain rollcalls.
(11) Addition of two video displays in the Chamber for the Mem-
The five major changes completed in the 95th Congress are :
(1) Provision for viewing vote summaries on the pilot closed circuit
(2) Provision for viewing issues under debate from the video dis-
plays in the Chamber.
(3) Provision for displaying vote summaries over closed circuit
television and the subsequent adding of sponsor(s) to amendment
(4) Capability to produce reports from the history file.
(5) The addition of a well vote verification screen to display- all
votes entered from the well by the tally clerk.
The implementation of changes and the correction of system
deficiencies were accomplished by the H.I.S. staff through a series of
new versions of the electronic voting system. The first version de-
livered by Control Data Corporation in January, 1973, was succeeded
by nineteen improved versions. These versions, their dates- of release
and the new features and modifications incorporated in each, are
Version 2, March, 1973
1. Expand device control test options.
New test option for summary displays.
Automatic sequence for main display test.
2. Modify check point programs.
3. Modify abort vote options.
4. Modify disk logical unit programs.
5. Modify format of initialize vote screen.
6. Modify screen for general pairs.
7. Modify pass work program.
8. Modify well vote program.
9. Modify history tape program for paired members.
10. Modify secondary video display terminal turnover program.
11. Modify read end-of-day tape program.
12. Modify process new issue program.
13. Modify inquiry request program.
14. Modify output video display screen utility.
15. Modify mass memory write utility.
16. Modify system restart programs,
17. Modify end-of-day log tape program.
18. Modify quorum numbering utility.
Version 3, May, 1973
1. Change report headings on recorded teller vote.
2. Modify mirror image program.
3. Modify alarm log program.
4. Modify engineering file program.
5. Modify on history tape pairs information recording.
6. Modify history tape program.
7. Increase quorum numbering capacity.
Version 4, July, 1973
1 . Add pairs to recorded teller votes.
2. Modify quorum numbering default option.
3. Add card insert transaction (x) to log file.
4. Change size of Member file, issue index file, and proceeding
5. Modify hardw^are check word error program.
6. Modify vote station test program.
7. Modify end-of-day portion of the issue index file program.
8. Permit Present vote on recorded teller vote.
9. Modify disk seek utility.
10. Delete log file duplicate entries.
1 1 . Add Member ID number to message.
12. Modify summary clock program.
Version 5, September, 1973
1 . Add new^ state and party report.
2. Add NotVoting option to well vote function.
3. Change 1716 utility.
4. Provide dual computer disk file control.
5. Modify vote program to turn off lights above main display
Version 6, January, 1974
1. Change format on state and party report.
2. Add video display of voting information by state.
3. Extend usage of video display terminal from vote termination
to the initialization of the next rollcall.
4. Modify vote terminations program for out-of-range rollcall
5. Modify program to prevent duplicate ID number from being
entered into the system.
6. Modify state and party file to permit a state with no sworn
Member to be entered.
Version 7, April, 1974
1. Addition to permit notice quorum calls.
2. Improve tally printer speed.
Version 8, September, 1974
1. Add capability to change pairs information.
2. Add capability to batch enter votes for manual rollcalls.
3. Further increase tally printer speed.
4. Modify inquiry function to show pairs.
5. Modify paired Members' vote entry program.
Version 9, December, 1974
1. Add capability to handle miscellaneous resolutions.
2. Add capability to modify issue descriptions on chamber con-
3. Add capability to browse issue file on video display terminal.
4. Add capability to identify questions on initiate vote function.
5. Add vote active message to initiate vote screen.
6. Delete unnecessary system messages from tally clerk's console.
7. Add capability to change vote type after initiation.
8. Add capability to convert notice quorums to regular quorums.
9. Show display panel status on device control screen.
Version 10, March, 1975
1. Add engineering file tape.
2. Add engineering file anal3'sis capabilit}^
Version 11, June, 1975
1. Add capability to retrieve voting information by new criteria.
Version 12, September, 1975
1. Add capability to specif}- retrieval criteria interactively.
2. Add capability to update displays after vote is final.
3. Change procedure for Members changing their votes.
Version 13, February, 1976
1. Add provision for having on-line vote history.
2. Add end-of-day mechanized process.
3. Add verification of log and vote files.
4. Add provision for retaining motions and descriptions.
5. Add EVS evaluation programs.
Version 14, March, 1976
1. Change procedures for Members changing their votes.
Version 15, July, 1976
1. Add capabiHty to retrieve historical data.
2. Add fifth line to issue description.
3. Add capabiHty to retrieve history rollcall information.
4. Add provisions for including non-recorded votes in history file.
Version 16, January, 1977
1. Add two additional video display consoles in Chamber.
2. Change procedures for 5-minute votes.
Version 17, April, 1977
1. Modify standard display for closed circuit television broadcast.
2. Add provision for displaying issue under debate at video display
3. Improve responsiveness of system.
Version 18, July, 1977
1. Add sponsor to amendments broadcast over closed circuit
2. Add well vote verification screen.
3^ Provide capability ^o produce reports from history file.
Version 19, September 1978
1. Transmit final vote results to the Summary of Proceedings and
Debates (SOP AD) after each rollcall.
Version 20, February 1979
1. Transmit active vote summaries to the Videofont Character
Generat or for display on the House Television Broadcast.
The above changes and Iriodificatiohs have all contributed to the
utility, accurac}^, and reliability of the electronic voting system with-
out adding to the cost of operation. Their implementation was a direct
consequence of the design concept, whereby the system can be easily
altered with minimal effort and cost.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3 1262 09111 6433